Two people died in fires last year in Brandon, the first fire-related fatalities in the city since 2004.
That was despite an overall decline in the number and severity of structure fires, according to the Brandon Fire and Emergency Services annual report, which was released yesterday.
The fire department responded to just 34 structure fires throughout the year, as well as making 119 other fire-related calls. All told, the fires caused about $1.2 million in damage.
“We’re happy to see fire calls flatten out because that means through construction and public education that the message is getting across,” BFES deputy chief Steve Romanik said.
More than 84 per cent of the department’s calls were related to emergency medical services. There were 3,432 calls for ambulance services last year with 4,223 patients being treated. Those numbers have increased since 2010 when there was 3,345 ambulance calls and 4,096 patients treated.
“Our busiest vehicles in the fire hall are our ambulances,” Romanik said. “The numbers are very important because they let us know where we need to focus our training and where we need to focus our resources.”
On the front lines, the department is made up of four crews of 14 firefighters, with junior members responding to the majority of ambulance calls.
“Usually the junior people are assigned to the ambulance and as you get seniority you move up to the rescue, the arial or the quint, and then to the fire engine,” Romanik said. “The fellows and ladies, who are on the ambulance, more often than not have the higher skill set and as they move up to the fire truck and the fire engine, there is less opportunity to use those skill sets so we relax the requirements, but they all still meet and exceed the minimum provincial requirements.”
The numbers may suggest that more resources need to be directed to EMS, and that consistent training is required for structure fires due to their decline, according to Romanik.
“If we’re on the ambulance a lot that means we’re using those skills more and more and you stay sharp and proficient at them,” Romanik said. “If we’re going to fewer and fewer fire calls maybe we need to not focus all our training on EMS, we need to make sure we’re doing even more fire training than EMS for the simple fact that we use those skills a little less.”
The department also responded to 378 alarms and 371 vehicle crashes, and performed 142 investigations. There were 35 other calls.
Firefighters got a new self-contained breathing apparatus in 2012, as well as a new pumper truck. The new No. 1 Fire Hall also hosted more than 80 tours to more than 1,110 people.
The department has been under fire recently for sick time costs that are more than double the city average. Covering that sick time cost $220,000 last year.
In its annual report, the department notes that it has started using a mass texting system to call for overtime.
“It’s working out well,” Romanik said. “We’re moving along with the technology and with the help of the city and our staff who are using these types of tools, everyone has gotten on board and it makes easier for our guys when we’re calling in.”
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from Grant Hamilton
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 12, 2013